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Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss brings star power to historic preservation; Wilderness battlefield controversy draws national attention
Date published: 3/19/2009
The Battle of the Wilderness, one of the Civil War's largest and most important conflicts, was the first clash between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The May 5-6, 1864, battle began Grant's grueling Overland Campaign, which drained both armies and eventually brought Union troops to the gates of Richmond.
Two other Virginia battlefields--New Market Heights and Cedar Creek--also made the trust's top-10 list.
At New Market Heights in Henrico County south of Richmond, new subdivisions and growing traffic congestion confront the battlefield. Despite being of national significance, no portion of the land is protected by any preservation organization.
A gutsy Union assault there by African-American troops on Sept. 29, 1864, resulted in 14 black soldiers being awarded the congressional Medal of Honor--the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government.
At Cedar Creek, between Middletown and Strasburg in the Shenandoah Valley, expansion of neighboring limestone quarries threatens the Oct. 19, 1864, battlefield.
After yesterday's news conference, Dreyfuss, Lighthizer and O'Connell traveled to Washington's Shaw neighborhood--named after Robert Gould Shaw, the martyred Union officer portrayed in the movie "Glory."
Visiting the African American Civil War Memorial at 10th and U streets, they joined black Civil War re-enactors to honor the courage and sacrifice of the 200,000 black troops who fought for the Union.
Frank Smith, director of the nearby African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, gave Dreyfuss a tour of the monument. Then, as dozens of students from D.C. schools looked on, the dignitaries laid a wreath at its base.ON THE NET: civilwar.org afroamcivilwar.org fowb.org nps.gov/frsp
Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029